Yes, I'm going to take my business up, up and away
THE first question that arises when we heard Ryanair are going to take on Iarnrod Eireann and run flights between Dublin and Cork, is what that actually means. When Ryanair say they'll fly to Cork does that mean they'll actually fly you to Cork airport or will it be someone's large back garden in Mallow, from where passengers will be bussed to Cork? The second question has to
THE first question that arises when we heard Ryanair are going to take on Iarnrod Eireann and run flights between Dublin and Cork, is what that actually means. When Ryanair say they'll fly to Cork does that mean they'll actually fly you to Cork airport or will it be someone's large back garden in Mallow, from where passengers will be bussed to Cork? The second question has to be, is it worth it? That's always the question with Ryanair really. Is it worth it?
The last time I took Ryanair to London it struck me that this is an airline that essentially brings out the worst in people.
We were all hanging around waiting to board. People had started queuing into the two stiles, one for people with tickets numbered below 60 and one for people with tickets numbered above 60. And then a load of people just milling in the general area of the top of the queue - or queue-jumpers as they're known. So before anything had happened there was already a simmering resentment between the legitimate queuers and the millers-around.
Then, simultaneously, and I'm not making this up, one of the staff started taking boarding cards from whoever offered them and letting them board, while another person was announcing that people who needed special assistance boarding and anyone who had children would be boarded first. The queueing system clearly meant nothing and the announcement about people requiring special assistance was a mere formality.
All of which means that when flying Ryanair, from the second you arrive at the airport, you are basically on your guard and viewing everyone else as a potential rival. For peace of mind I'd much rather pay the extra tenner to get an assigned seat on Aer Lingus and relax at the airport.
As regards the argument that flying won't get you between Dublin and Cork as quick as a train I'd beg to differ. Iarnrod Eireann claim a city centre to city centre time of two and a half hours. Which is all very well until you factor in that at busy times you need to get to the train three quarters of an hour before it goes. And it is a select group of trains that take just two hours and a half, many of them taking much longer. Bear in mind, too, that a trip on the train can be dirty, smelly, crowded, and can lack any kind of first-world catering or facilities.
It has been pointed out that you need to check-in for your 40-minute flight between Cork and Dublin an hour and a half before flying time. Again, this is not strictly true. I have recently become a devotee of Aer Arann who fly from Dublin to Cork, Kerry, Galway and obviously back again.
Heading down to Kerry can take a huge chunk out of a short break. By car you can be talking up to seven hours driving to get to certain parts of Kerry. Aer Arann have you out beyond Killarney in less than an hour. And you get out in Kerry, walk straight into the terminal, your bags are practically there waiting for you and you're off.
Aer Arann also seem to have revived the old tradition of having friendly attractive young air hostesses, which I notice many of the other airlines are steadily abandoning in these no-frills times we live in. They even give you a newspaper.
The real beauty is that when you're flying out of Cork and Kerry with Aer Arann you can essentially roll up half an hour before your flight. You just walk in to these airstrips, which have the relaxed atmosphere of a barnstormers/cropdusters airstrip in rural Kansas and before you know it you're getting on a plane. As long as Aer Arann run on time they're perfect and of the last four flights I took with them three were early arriving, which is a good record. I've got from the ass-end of Kerry to my desk in Dublin in roughly two hours on a Monday morning with Aer Arann.
Similarly I've got door-to-door from my parents' house in Cork to my home in Dublin in two and a quarter hours on a Sunday evening.
Furthermore, unlike the train on a Sunday, or a Friday, you're actually guaranteed a 'Bear in mind, too, that a trip on the train can be dirty, smelly, crowded, and can lack any kind of facilities.'
seat. The one fly in the ointment of going up and down to Kerry and Cork with Aer Arann is Dublin airport. Kerry and Cork you're in and out in no time. But once Dublin gets involved it nearly takes all the good out of it. You have to queue, get your belt and your shoes off, and then hang around, because you've invariably come really early in case there's delays.
However, the last time I flew into Dublin on Aer Arann they announced that there was a new dedicated security queue for domestic flights with Aer Arann. If this is working and they can make taking a domestic flight more like taking a bus, rather than a major operation, then the absolutely extortionate short-term parking in Dublin Airport (which was recently hiked in one go by 50 per cent from ?20 a day to ?30) will be the only barrier to short-hop domestic flights becoming the travelling method of choice in Ireland, as is fitting for a country of Ireland's economic and social sophistication. Still though. I won't be doing it with Ryanair unless I really have to.